Conflict resolution & Iran: is the us heading towards another military conflict or can iran's nuclear development be resolved through diplomatic means?


It is not the first time that USA has been left cold feet by the growing prowess of a Middle Eastern country. In the recent past it had been similarly unsettled about the Saddam Hussein regime and hastily made public its rather unfounded fear regarding Iraq’s supposed WMD production. What followed is stuff history is made of.

Resolution doesn’t come easy to USA. Unfortunately for her however she has to encounter far more situations that need resolving than others. Perhaps this misfortune has to be embraced as an occupational hazard of the undisputed leader amongst global powers today. Or perhaps this needs to be feared like a guilty party fears recurring nightmares. Either way USA has a definite challenge at hand. She has already become deeply unpopular due to her faux pas at Iraq and even those who backed her up during the Iraqi invasions are now slowly pointing unflinching fingers at her.

To continue with her military mission by extending it to Iran would equal jumping out of the hot pan and into the stove. If USA were a rebel this shift from bad to worse would not, for all practical purposes, make the least bit of difference. After all terrorists all over the world have been making one terrorizing move after the other in the last 4-5 years itself and yet they show no sign of being in the least bit bothered about the negative publicity they are raking up. But USA is no terrorist organization and her war is, self-confessedly, against terror of any kind. She intends to set standards, not ransack them and hence her moves require more diplomacy than others.

She has of course made a million blunders regarding Iran already. One of them is the ‘Axis of Evil’ speech President Bush bumbled out belligerently on the 29th of January 2002. Others (and there really are quite a few) will be discussed systematically in the sections that follow. (Dos, 258-9)

The relevant question here is regarding USA’s will to bring matters down to diplomacy. The American authorities have already stated, “A Nuclear-armed Iran is not acceptable” (NMS, 1). They have further affirmed, “All options (which President Bush verified include nuclear weapon strike) are on the table” (NMS, 1).

Through all the drama Iran has however maintained that it is not nuclear armed and that its nuclear project, though underground, is directed merely at power generation and not at the creation of WMD’s. Under usual circumstances this explanation was enough to put USA at complete ease. After all this wasn’t the first time a nation was seeking to produce nuclear energy to meet its power needs. Also, even if Iran were in fact developing nuclear armaments it wouldn’t be the first country to carry out such a weapons program in a clandestine matter.

Not long ago North Korea (then a NPT signatory) too had similarly breached NPT requirements and acquired its own nuclear weapon. USA had seemed hardly perturbed then. How Iran is possibly different from either of these countries is not an issue USA seems keen on tackling. When it does attempt an explanation it flings allegations at Iran almost as irresponsibly as Iran flings allegations at it. But wanting though they are of delicacy the American authorities can hardly be blamed of lacking in political tact. Hence despite insinuating an attack at every given chance they have till date denied getting ready to strike Iran down at an official level.

For them the process of ‘disarming Iran’ (although no WMD has yet been discovered in Iran) is still a diplomatic project, at least at a public level. But whatever their present stands it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that USA is out to thwart any possibility of Iran gaining a nuclear weapon and surfacing as a Middle Eastern superpower. The likely reasons behind USA’s anxiety regarding the matter and the present situation will be the primary subject.

Background to the current situation

Sometime in mid 2002 Alireza Jafarzadeh, dropped a sizeable bomb on the international political scene by revealing that Iran had not one but two separate nuclear sites (both under-construction and therefore not functional). One of them, he said, was a partially underground uranium enrichment facility located in Natanz and the other a heavy water facility located in Arak.

This declaration came as a bit of a shock to the international community amongst whom Iran had so far been established as one of the earliest signatories of the NPT (ratified in the 70’s). As a signatory of the NPT Iran agreed to not only not “seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons” but also to not “acquire”, “receive” or “manufacture” any such nuclear arsenal. Of course the unearthing of yet unknown nuclear sites did not necessarily suggest Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

Indeed the Iranian Government itself has been crying hoarse, telling everyone who would care to listen that the nuclear power project is directed at generating power and not at developing arsenals. Though at present nuclear power does not provide any part of the Iranian energy grid Iranian authorities assert that the country will be producing 6,000 Megawatts of electricity by means of nuclear power within the next 3 years. (Kar, 47-8)

Even if these assertions are accurate Iran has still no doubt landed in a hot soup over its opacity regarding its nuclear project. As a party to the NPT, Iran of course is expected to keep the IAEA updated regarding its nuclear ambitions and projects. As per a previous arrangement though Iran’s Safeguard settlement with IAEA the country did not require letting the IAEA scrutinize any new nuclear facility till about 6 months before the facility was finally introduced to nuclear material.

Unfortunately for Iran though this settlement underwent a change in 1992 when the organization decided that the IAEA needed to be informed about all nuclear facilities, even if the project was far from being built and was still in the planning phase. Tellingly enough Iran was the last of the signatories to consent to this new decision. However, the country did agree, after a lot of persuasion in 2003. The IAEA investigations had commenced by then. (Kar, 104)

In October, 2003 almost 7 moths after Iran consented to the safeguard update of ’92 the EU-3 (United Kingdom, France and Germany) made an attempt to solve Iran’s nuclear issues in a diplomatic manner. As a follow up of their discussions the Foreign Ministers of the EU-3 and the Iranian government came up with a statement. In this Iran not only assented to function in-lieu with the IAEA but also agreed to sign and apply an Additional Protocol (as an attempt to re-establish the IAEA’s lost confidence) and also to shelve all its reprocessing and enrichment proceedings while the negotiations were on.

In return the EU-3 agreed to acknowledge Iran’s own nuclear rights and to come up with ways in which Iran could offer “satisfactory assurance” vis-à-vis its nuclear power project following which Iran would find it easier to enter into the realms of modern technology.

The IAEA report that followed acknowledged Iran’s various breaches of the Safeguards Agreement, which, it reported, were being committed for a while. Iran in turn ascribed its failure to let the IAEA know about the various stages of its nuclear program on ‘US obstructionism’. (Kar, 76)

IAEA has officially denied having found any specific evidence suggesting that Iran is indeed conducting a nuclear weapons program of some kind in secret. However, it has also refused to conclude that Iran’s nuclear project is meant for purely ‘peaceful’ purposes.

Long before the recent unearthing became the talk of the town USA maintained that Iran was carrying out an underground nuclear program with the objective of developing weapons of mass destruction. The US-Iran relations soured considerably after the 1979 Revolution during which the Islamic Republicans dethroned the former Shah. The Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had of course shared a reasonably close relationship with the US.

In fact USA played a crucial role in helping him reestablish himself as a monarch after his short exile in 1952-53. By 1977 however, with the emergence President Jimmy Carter the US- Shah relations deteriorated to a certain extent. Carter unlike his predecessors was not, one might say, particularly appreciative of the Shah or his political methods.

In 1979 the Iranian public revolted for the second time and this time they proved to be more successful. Hence, the Shah was overthrown, this time for good, since the US was obviously unwilling to help him regain his position yet again.

Ayatollah Khomeini who now assumed power in Iran was far less affable with America than his predecessor and lost no time in tagging the US as the “nation of infidels” and the “Great Satan”.  They also claimed that the former ruler had been no more than a mere puppet who danced unabashedly to US tunes. When the Carter allowed the Shah to finally enter USA (extremely reluctantly and only because the Shah who was terminally was keen on visiting the US for medical help) Khomeini used the incident to justify his former claims.

The outraged Iranians were immediately up in arms once again and a group of radical students (along with a group of Khomeini followers) stormed into the US embassy almost immediately. This group of extremists held hostage the 52 inmates of the embassy at that time for a total of 444 days, at a stretch.  (Kar, 89)

In April, 1980, precisely 5 months after the 1979 hostage crisis began US decided to snap all diplomatic ties with Iran.

It may be difficult to believe but Iran’s nuclear program, initiated by the former Shah, was actually begun with US assistance.  The political scenario however has undergone tremendous changes in the last 50 years or so. USA now believes that the nuclear program that it once helped Iran with is now being used for purposes quite contrary to what was initially planned and has been slowly diverted to the production of destructive weapons. The IAEA, as formerly stated, is ambiguous regarding Iran’s possible emergence as a new Nuclear weapon state.

Many consider USA’s paranoia over Iran’s nuclear power program unfounded and point out that a number of other countries, including South American nations such as Brazil and Argentina have already developed the sort of enrichment abilities Iran has been found to be developing. They further point out that many more nations are likely to develop such technology in the near future in order to meet their rising energy needs.

A number of developing nations are also suspicious about the exact intentions of the five nuclear power states and refuse to remain obligated to them merely in order to maintain their nuclear supplies. Hence, many of them have emerged as resolute supporters of the individual right of every nation to want to develop an indigenous nuclear cycle and to continue enriching uranium without being stopped by the US or the other nuclear states. (Kar, 98)

The US on the other hand rubbishes Iran’s claim to nuclear power by pointing out that the country is already rich in oil reserves and can therefore not possibly fall short of its energy requirements. The other countries such as Brazil or Argentina on the other hand, they say, had an obvious shortage of fuel, which needed to be substantiated by means of nuclear energy. The National Academy of Sciences (USA) however have disagreed with such claims and proved by means of recently conducted studies that Iran is truly heading towards a state of tremendous energy deficiency.

As one will remember former US governments had also accepted Iran’s energy issues and thereby stood by her nuclear project.

A number of analysts have also linked USA’s stand regarding Iran’s nuclear power project with the US-Israel link and with USA’s current condition in Iraq. USA has long feared that it might be losing ground to Iran in Iraq. If Iran gains a nuclear weapon, USA fear that the fight to oust Iran off from what USA has comfortably marked as ‘conquered territory’ in Iraq might be tougher than usual. Also Iran with a nuclear weapon might unite a number of Middle Eastern states (all of whose feathers USA has managed to ruffle down the years) against USA. What would ensure such an event would definitely be termed a World War. (Kar, 106)

To worsen matters the Arab-Israeli peace talks seems to have collapsed once and for all in recent times. Under the circumstances Iran’s emergence as a nuclear power might clinch matters in the favour of the Arabs. Iran, of course, is one of the many states who refuse to accept the legitimacy of the state of Israel, and have referred again and again to its complete annihilation. As a close ally of Israel, USA is obviously concerned that a nuclear weapon in the hands of the Iranians might prove particularly unsafe for Israel.

The Bush administration has not being making matters any easier between Iran and the USA. His famous “Axis of Evil” speech (in 2002), which identified Iran along with North Korea and Saddam’s Iraq as an ‘axis of evil’ has worked like a sharp stab on old injury. It was the cause of much anger in Iran and perhaps worsened matters between the two countries.

USA has also been flying UAV’s (or unmanned aerial vehicles) over Iran since 2003, shortly after it managed to penetrate into Iraq. These vehicles (launched from neighbouring country Iraq) are apparently used to try and obtain information regarding Iran’s ongoing nuclear program. The outraged Iranian government has officially objected to such illegal incursion.

The Bush administration has simultaneously been busy committing a number of other crimes on Iran. These include, but are not confined to, providing Iran’s arch rival Israel with a hundred odd jet bombers which were blatantly publicized as capable of bombarding Iran with missiles, assisting Pakistani terrorist organizations to carry on attacks on Iran, providing full support to Azeri separatists etc.

The US-Iran tension peaked recently due to the growing nature of energy geopolitics. As of now much of the western world’s energy security lies in the hands of Middle Eastern countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. USA of course is uncomfortable with placing its trust squarely on such countries and is eager to become self-reliant. The fact that Iran has long been planning a new International Oil exchange dealing with oil priced not in dollars (like it is presently) but rather in Euros or some such other currency has only added to US anxiety. The exchange scheduled to be opened in 2006 has been postponed.

Conflict Resolution strategies

Conflict resolution strategies begin with recognizing the exact source of the present conflict. A conflict can result out of a number of issues including unmet needs (such as the need for power or attention or even the need for personal, emotional or physical security) or the apparent incapacity to meet certain needs (like those already described) or even unsettled past concerns.

In the following section we will be taking a close look at 3 different strategies that might be put to use for conflict resolution purposes. Each strategy is simple and straightforward and include, a)                 Boundary- Setting tactics b)                Communication tactics and c)                 Supportiveness methods Boundary Setting tactics are an important part of conflict resolution strategies since it is primarily concerned with accommodating others needs and requirements within the scope of our relationship with them. Thus, it is fundamental to the creation of what has come to be known as the “win-win” situation. It has been proved, quite conclusively, that power structures that rely on collaboration and mutual respect rather than on fear or the possibility of disempowerment or even manipulation tend to build a far more success/reward-oriented atmosphere.

Also, when outcomes do emerge in such an environment they are accepted with a non-punitive approach, which helps individuals accept their own mistakes and make the necessary changes in their behaviour without being pointlessly concerned about the price he/she might have to pay for their apparent shortcoming. In such a situation there is little need for egotism or pride as the prevailing mood in the relationship is that of emotional safety and security.

As most of us in a social set-up understand boundaries are far more practical than rules. This is because rules bring in a sense of power tilting towards one of the parties in the relationship. Such disequilibria of power is an unhealthy situation which can never support the idyllic win-win situation. Take for instance the relationship between Iran and the US, the more the number of sanctions and restrictions that the US levies on Iran the more Iran is likely to want to rebel against the US and prove who the real boss is.

Relationships such as that between USA and Iran are best described as a win-lose relationship, which is by all standards a competitive association. In such a relationship one of the participating parties is always ‘ahead’ of the other, thus much of the relationship is concerned with ‘beating’ the other party and scoring ‘brownie points’ over it. (Dollard, 154-5)

Also, as, again, most of us know nearly all rules tend to be formulated and followed by those who are most likely to gain from them. Hence it is no wonder that no rule is particularly liked (if not thoroughly detested) by those upon whom it is imposed.

Unlike rules boundaries look to coax parties involved in any given relationship into cooperation by means of meaningful ‘payoffs’. A good boundary always recognizes factors that might motivate 2 parties involved in a relationship to behave in a certain desirable manner. Identifying such motivating factors is fundamental to any win-win situation.

Communication tactics like setting boundaries is yet another important part of conflict resolution. If things aren’t going the way a certain party in the relationship desires it to the best bet he/she has is to simply TALK. Complaining to a third party and trying to involve others into mediating in the relationship is almost always yet another way to complicate matters.

Communication relies on calm thinking and not on impulsive anger. So if the other party in a relationship is doing something which you think is particularly infuriating you’d be best advised to regain your composure and more importantly your rational before addressing the issue directly. No prompt decision that comes immediately after a certain party’s ‘bad behavior’ is ever good news. If one of the party’s loses his/her cool chances are high that so will the other party, what will ensue therefore is pure disaster. To avoid such disasters diplomacy is of particular significance.

Thankfully relations between two nations tend to be more diplomatic than others. Hence, at least public statements regarding certain undesirable behaviour of a given party tend to be far better thought out than the usual outbursts we tend to experience under usual circumstances. However, even diplomatic relationships often stem out from extremely personal concerns, thus they too are underlined by what maybe a bubbling temper.

To make sure that no such undue emotion directs their decisions all parties in such a relationship should first try and free their minds of such antagonism. Only when personal emotions have been successfully dealt with can a party finally hope to take constructive steps towards solving any hanging issue.

The final strategy that we are going to discuss in this section is also perhaps the most important of the three we have been concerned with and deals with Supportiveness tactics. Unlike in the previous two cases this particular strategy has less to do with the two parties involved in the relationship and more with a third party who is, technically, uninvolved. To ensure the success of this tactic it is important that such a third party is absolutely clear about his/her role. He/she is not required to provide solutions or get personally involved in the situation; in fact he/she is required to do little more than just listen.

As a third party you will be required to pay complete attention to the conflict situation and the individual accounts of the two parties concerned. Try and differentiate between what are obviously just ‘feelings’ and others that are definitely ‘behaviours’. A third party needs to steer clear of being judgmental. Accept what either party have to let you know without judging them. Do not blame or attack the people concerned or try to deny them of the right to feel in a certain way. At the same time do not try to gain their confidence by suggesting that they are ‘right’ and the other party is ‘wrong’. Instead be supportive by lending a patient ear.

Third parties ought to recognize their personal boundaries. They need to realize that despite being an important part of a possible solution they are not after all an exact part of the present conflict. Hence all sorts of advice giving should be avoided at all cost, what you know little about and what you aren’t a party to you have no business trying to forcefully poke your nose into. What you can do however is assist the involved parties into thinking regarding the various options they have at hand and the consequence their choices might ultimately result in. Remaining objective works well for a third party at any given point of time.

Yet other ways of resolving a conflict involve the establishment of a “win-win” power dynamic. In such a situation both parties strive towards a situation in which both of them manage to achieve what they desire. This maybe done by considering (and then selecting from) a number of choices. Each choice ought to be decided upon according to the individual inputs of each party. A ‘win-win’ situation is famous for dual-empowerment. It allows both parties involved in a relationship to continue to have equal amount of authority on the association. It therefore creates a healthy environment from which few feel the desire to ‘rebel’.

Remaining positive is intrinsic to the success of any conflict resolution strategy. To ensure a positivist approach it is best to convert all reactive environments into proactive environments. Emphasizing on prevention rather than on reaction is yet another significant shift. While providing feedback regarding the other party’s behaviour in the relationship highlighting on the positive performances over the negative ones can prove beneficial. While identifying the other party’s mistakes or flaws one’s approach should be constructive rather than aggressive.

Finally, in order to solve any conflict we ought to try and steer absolutely clear of possible double standards. If we do not want the other party to behave in a certain manner with us then we ought to stay away from such behaviour ourselves. Remember to hold yourself to the same standard you expect out of a second party in the relationship. If you want respect simply shows respect. If USA wants compliance from Iran it ought to be compliant itself, and vice versa. No point in expecting others to behave in a certain manner we wouldn’t. (Fletcher, 88-91)

History of the Iranian Nuclear programmes

Shah regime The Western world may have shared a secret laugh over the Shah’s rather ostentatious design to set-up ‘23 nuclear power reactors’ in the late 70’s, but they did not, assuredly, consider his move to be a sneaky shortcut into a fearful weapon program.

It was perhaps because Iran was still, quite confidently, still under the reigns of USA that at no point during this period did Iran be suspected of delving into an underground nuclear weapons program. Hence the 20+ nuclear power stations, to be built ‘across the country’, had the full backing of the US of A along with various Western firms with whom Iran had, publicly, entered into intricate contracts.

Soon after the announcement of the nuclear program in 1974 Kraftwerk Union, a German company, set forth in its building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, as per agreement. It is in the same year that oil production in Iran reached an all time high (6.1 million barrels/day).

Shortly after the nuclear program was announced Iran also propagated its Atomic Energy Act, which dealt with all the functions of the Atomic energy Organization of Iraq in elaborate detail. Most of the organization’s functions were concerned with provision and usage of radiation and atomic energy for agriculture and in industries. The establishment was also involved in launching atomic power stations, manufacturing raw materials required by atomic industries, providing the R&D resources that go into the establishment of the aforementioned projects, managing and overseeing matters related to the country’s atomic energy needs etc.

 The Shah was eager to set up what was by all standards an ambitious nuclear project through which he meant to produce 23,000MW by the end of 1999. The plan however met with very little initial success and it was only in the late 60’s, after the US provided her with a 5MW TRR (thermal research reactor) that the project really took off. Following the sudden rise in oil revenues in late 1973-74 the Shah took yet another bold step and decided to both modernize his country AND strengthen its reputation abroad. In order to fulfil these ambitions he deftly directed a large chunk of the national budget towards the freshly created AEOI (Atomic energy Organization of Iran) and the military.

To hasten Iran’s negotiations for the nuclear agreements (especially with the US) the Shah quickly signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (1968). The obligations for the same treaty came into force in 1970, following its ratification. Between 1970 and 1975 Iran fulfilled a number of contracts dealing with the building of a handful of nuclear power plants and supplying nuclear fuel to a couple of others. Amongst those being provided with the nuclear plants and fuel were France, Germany and the United States.

In 1976 Iran made a large investment both in the European consortium’s (i.e. Eurodif’s) Tricastin uranium enrichment plant and the Rossing RTZ uranium mine in Namibia. The Iranian government also signed a whopping $700 million deal to buy uranium yellowcake from South Africa in the same year. To better equip the country in what was promptly becoming a thriving new technology a number of Iranian technicians were sent overseas to learn more about the nuclear sciences.

Despite what his extravagant designs for nuclear power seems to suggest the Shah of Iran was rather pragmatic at a few levels. This is revealed in the tremendous emphasis that he was known to have lain on the R&D program that went behind Iran’s nuclear project. The Shah of course did not have any definite intention to engage in any study regarding uranium enrichment or reprocessing. Yet, he is known to have allowed much freedom to the scientists at AEOI’s brand new TNRC regarding the exact character and course of the experiments they were eager to conduct.

However, although the Shah was admittedly liberal towards the use to which nuclear power was being put he was apparently disinterested to explore the military possibilities of the new technology. As a former leader of AEOI reminisces the Shah was known to have "considered it absurd, under the existing circumstances, to embark on anything else but a purely civilian (nuclear) program” (Etemad, 212).

But documents unearthed in Tehran following the 1979 revolution has been considered to prove that Iran and Israel were in fact in the process of developing a plan to transform Israel’s Jericho missiles into missiles which could easily be outfitted with nuclear weapons. The transformed missiles were meant to be used by Iran herself. Western intelligence is also of the opinion that scientists under the Shah regime had experimented with the various military uses to which nuclear power could have been put. Hence by 1979, when the Shah rule did come to a definite end, Iran’s nuclear program was by far the most sophisticated in the whole of the Middle East.

The Islamic republic Regime

Shah’s elaborately planned nuclear program fell flat on its face with the 1979 revolution. Ayatollah Khomeini, the man who was now calling the shots, was blatantly against the new technology and made no bones about putting a screeching halt to the project immediately after he assumed power. It didn’t help of course that a large number of the scientists, who formerly worked for the Shah regime, also left Iran for good during this very period.

Furthermore, Iran’s electrical infrastructure had by now become insufficient; her oil revenues too were deteriorating. As a result of her growing shortcomings most foreign dealers decided to withdraw from Iran and the nuclear agreements, so meticulously designed by the Shah, were now abandoned. Hence, the only nuclear plants in Iran during ’79 were the ones being built by the German company Siemens at Busehr.

Despite the sudden lax on the nuclear program research on nuclear weaponry apparently continued unhindered through the turmoil of the revolution. Studies in this field were further boosted with the establishment of the nuclear research centre (Isfahan, 1984).

The very nature of the new government made it vulnerable to challenges from both internal and external sources. No sooner had it come into power the revolutionary government had to face powerful antagonism from its neighbouring country, Iraq. By overthrowing the Shah regime the revolutionaries had also managed to (albeit purposefully) lose the long-standing alliance of the US. This had no doubt ignited nationalist fervour initially, but under threat from Iraq this sudden self-reliance perhaps proved less of a reason to celebrate.

Through eight years of what was, by all accounts, a devastating war the new government of Iran emerged more politically enlightened. After withstanding incessant bombing at the nuclear plant site, unforeseen chemical attacks on its army and merciless military assaults on its people the Iranian government finally realized how desperately it needed the infrastructure the former Shah had tried to create by means of nuclear power. Some consider this crisis period to have also contributed to Iran’s ultimate decision to put its nuclear know-how to military use.

Iraq was of course by now a nuclear power to reckon with and perhaps Iran realized that the only way to safeguard itself from its neighbouring country was by flaunting the same trump card Iraq was flashing before Iran’s face. A number of political analysts are of the opinion that it was this intention to keep itself afloat during a time of emergency that ultimately led Iran to develop nuclear weaponry. Iran itself of course has never accepted this explanation and has vehemently denied having developed any nuclear armaments of any kind before or after the war with Iraq.

Despite having lost USA as an ally Iran was not fighting for its cause all by itself. Indeed, it soon managed to find support in a number of other countries such as China, North Korea and possibly Syria. These countries were not only providing Iran with much needed moral support but also, the more practicable, weapons and arms. Having regained its interest in the nuclear project Iran was now also searching for a new candidate to finish off the Busehr venture.

By the late 80’s Iran had entered into long-standing nuclear agreements with Pakistan (1987) and China (1990). The agreement with both the countries concerned training recruits although China was also required to supply Iran with one 27 Kilowatt MNSR (Miniature Neutron Source Reactor) and two 300 Megawatts Qinshan power reactors.

Many western analysts also think that the agreement with Pakistan (which had by now obtained its own nuclear bomb) also included an exchange of nuclear expertise. Despite little evidence western intelligence continues to suspect Pakistan of having trained scientists from Iran in gas centrifuge enrichment research as well as plutonium extraction techniques. The training, many think was carried on under the supervision of A.Q Khan, the man behind Pakistan’s own nuclear armaments.

Soviet Union, who had formerly been a staunch supporter of Iraq, surprised many by emerging as an ally to Iran in early 1990. By ’95 the newly formed Russian Federation took over the building of the incomplete Busehr reactors at an official level. Russia was also to build 3 other reactors at the Busehr site and supply a few extra nuclear plants to Iran.

The sudden alliance between Iran and Russia proved ‘disturbing’ for the US. It immediately expressed its vehement opposition to the agreement between Iran and Russia and related how difficult it might be to deal with Iran if it managed to acquire the requisite knowledge and equipment to set up a nuclear weapons project.

However despite a number of desperate attempts of the US to halt Iran’s nuclear attempts, which included (but was not restricted to) coaxing the Russian government to call off the deal (especially during the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission summits) and blocking a large number of Iran’s nuclear agreements (most famously the ones with Argentina, China and Russia), the facility was now, we are told, almost complete.

By ’95 USA reached the conclusion that Iran maybe chasing nuclear weaponry through another channel, by means of dual-use items, which it regularly procured from a number of Western establishments. Moreover USA also learnt that Iran and Russia had finished a secret protocol stipulating recently. Fearing that this was the first step towards disaster USA went on frenzy and immediately imposed elaborate restrictions on Iran. To ensure that their plan was waterproof the US also pressurized both Russian and other European exporters to stop supplying dual-use technology, which can be used for developing nuclear armaments, to Iran.

In 2002 the NCRI (National Council of Resistance of Iran), an organization based in Paris exposed the presence of two other, unknown facilities,

(a)              A uranium enrichment facility, located in Natanz and

(b)             A heavy water production plant, located in Arak.

Also, during this time, following the unearthing of considerably large reserves of Uranium in Iran itself (at Saghand in the Yazd province) Iran proudly declared that it was now in the process of designing a new nuclear power plan which relied completely on native resources.

Needless to say both these information came as a great shock to the US who did not take too long too understand that the two new facilities and the local uranium resource would both contribute appreciably to Iran’s nuclear power project. Since most of the ingredients of the project were home grown, US understood, Iran’s nuclear progress would now also prove to be both difficult to detect and deter. (King, 324-5)

US approach to Iran and other Nuclear powers of the region

US relations with Pakistan

Former President Zulfiwar Ali Bhutto has often been credited as the mastermind behind the country’s nuclear weapons program. Bhutto got started on the program as early as 1971, soon after Pakistan lost Bangladesh. He supposedly managed to establish the weapons program within the very next year. The defeat against India had left the Pakistani in a state of panic. Quickly Bhutto had gathered together a group of engineers and physicists in Multan and initiated the weapons program, just like that, almost overnight.

Pakistan has remained unequivocal about their purpose behind developing a nuclear weapon project. The Pakistani authorities have repeatedly stated ‘keeping at par with India’ to be the sole objective of their nuclear program. Following India’s emergence as a definite nuclear power in 1974 Pakistan became concerned about a nuclear attack by its neighbouring country.

To ensure a fair fight if such an attack did ensue Pakistan wanted to stay prepared in the best possible manner, with nuclear weapon and the rest. Hence post ’75 the Pakistani nuclear weapon program acquired new impetus. It helped of course that Dr. A.Q Khan, a metallurgist trained in Germany and the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb too emerged in the scene during the same time.

A.Q Khan brought with him a number of resources, including uranium enrichment techniques, which he apparently pinched from certain European countries. Under his guidance and experience Pakistan managed to acquire the requisite equipments and technology for it’s growing (and completely clandestine) uranium enrichment project.

Within 10 years itself Pakistan’s uranium production went far beyond what was required for a weapons project. Many consider Pakistan to have manufactured sufficient fissile material needed to produce a nuclear weapon by 1986. In 1998 proving all such conjectures correct Pakistan finally carried out “5 nuclear tests”. The tests, carried out on the 28th of May were reported to have produced a seismic signal of 5.0 and apparently had a yield of over 40KT.  2 days later, on the 30th of May Pakistan carried out yet another test, this time (reportedly) with a yield of 12 KT.

Despite their tall claims however a number of organizations, including the Southern Arizona Seismic Observatory, have rubbished Pakistani statements and declared that the yield of all the 6 explosions were far lower than what they were reported to have been.

Once Pakistan did confirm its status as a nuclear power the U.S. considered it wise to impose a number of sanctions on them (“under the authority of the Foreign Assistance Act”). These sanctions successfully cut of all trade and military aid Pakistan was then receiving from the U.S.

But despite having thus wrenched itself out of economic and martial relationships with Pakistan, U.S. soon returned to its doorstep requesting assistance as Afghanistan emerged at the focal point of international conflicts. With the growing importance of Afghanistan in the world map Pakistan, as a “frontline state”, too emerged as a strong ally of the United States. This alliance was to grow even sturdier following the 9/11 mishap. As the U.S. declared war on world terrorism it urged Pakistan’s support with a simple declaration, “you are either with us or against us” (CNN/US, 1).

President Musharraf has later gone on record to claim that U.S. President Bush had apparently warned him that ‘if Pakistan did not join hands with the U.S in its battle against terrorism she (Pakistan) would be bombed “Back to Stone age” by the U.S, forces’ (Lang, 1).

Eric Margolis, a Foreign Correspondent / Defence Analyst who later interviewed Musharaff stated that certain cabinet documents leaked from the British Prime Minister’s home in 10 Downing Street reveals that President George W. Bush had discussed his intention to ‘go after’ Pakistan right after he ‘finished off’ with Iraq in great details with British prime Minister Tony Blair. The mentioned documents date back to January 2003, 3 months before Iraq was formally invaded by U.S. troops.

US relations with Iraq

After the Gulf War (1991) came to a close Iraq was required (under a UN Special Commission) to stop the production of all available items of long-range, nuclear, biological and chemical missiles. Along with the destruction of all such present weapons Iraq was also obligated to abandon all such weapon programs, whether already functioning or in the pipeline. In keeping with the decree, Iraq was reported to have systematically destroyed almost all its weapon and WMD-material by U.N weapons inspectors who remained in the country till 1998. During 1998 however these supervisors were forced to leave by the non-cooperative Iraqi government.

Having left Iraq at this stage the U.N inspectors maintained that the issues that they had been ordered to sort out were yet unsettled. This declaration, perhaps, remained strongly stuck in the US Government’s mind.

In 2002-03, a little over a year and a half after the bomb strike on the WTC on the 11th of September 2001, US President George W. Bush ordered an immediate termination of all (alleged) manufacture of WMD’s in Iraq and insisted that Iraq meet all the terms of the 1991 UN Special Commission. Bush continued to back all his demands for complete disarmament and unregulated inspection by UN weapon specialists with intimidating threats of martial raids into the country. Ultimately in 2002 Iraq did give in to the United States incessant bullying and agreed to allow UN scrutiny.

The inspectors found no trace of any WMD material but they continued to be suspicious of the Iraqi Government and were adamant that the Iraqi officials had not declared all their weapon supplies.

Before the invasion, sometime in early 2003 USA, together with UK and Spain initiated what was called the ‘18th resolution’ regarding Iraq. This resolution suggested that Iraq be given a deadline to fulfil the requirements put forward by the UN before a ‘possible military intervention’. However despite the eagerness with which this resolution was put forward the U.N Security Council (or rather Russia, France and Germany) soon rejected it. The abovementioned countries were concerned that invading Iraq might amount to increasing the risk that the country already seemed to pose to the rest of the world. Instead they recommended a diplomatic method emphasizing, “…military solution would be the worst solution”. (Lamb, 226)

Despite such advice, though Iraq was finally invaded by U.S. troops in March 2003 after President Bush announced “diplomacy has failed”. Soon he called upon countries all over the world to join what was labelled the “Coalition of the Willing” and free Iraq of its WMD’s. Strangely enough the US government also asked the UN weapons inspectors to clear out of Baghdad almost immediately after the Coalition was formed.

The invasion commenced what has come to be known as the Iraq war or the 2nd or 3rd Gulf War or even ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’. Initially Bush justified the attack on Iraq by claiming that Iraq was being difficult and disobedient by going against the UN and continuing to possess WMD’s. Soon however he complemented that argument with the assertion that Saddam’s Government was working together with the terrorist outfit called Al-Qaeda, which had been linked to the 9/11 wreckage.

Both these claims have however been disputed strongly by the critics of the war on Iraq. Some have even gone far enough to claim that the Bush government has been misrepresenting intelligence sources to the general public in an extremely systematic manner. These individuals are also of the opinion that the Iraq War was one of the biggest shams the US government has ever pulled and that the reasons for the Iraq campaign were based on ‘fabricated stories’.

Regardless of the constant public statements of the Bush administration the UN weapons inspectors haven’t yet traced a single weapon of mass destruction within the borders of Iraq. Also the September 11 Commission, which was specially formed to investigate the people or persons who masterminded the WTC blasts have claimed to have no reason to believe that Saddam Hussein was working with or for the Al Qaeda. In fact they claim nothing links the two subjects.

Many were surprised to find that the ‘coalition’ hardly met with any Iraqi resistance at all. By April 2003, almost all allies were of the opinion that the war was over.

And yet the Coalition troops were reported to have continued abusing serious human rights in a number of occasions in Iraq. These abuses include, but are by no means confined to the ‘Abu Gharib torture and prisoner abuse’ (Lamb, 117), the Haditha killings, use of white phosphorus in warfare, hundreds of rapes and murders, alleged bombing and shooting of hundreds of civilians etc.

Legal boundaries and bodies involved for setting a frame work on global nuclear programmes

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (also referred to as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) is a treaty that was put forward at an international level on 1st July 1968. It is directed towards limiting the creation and use of nuclear weapons by the nations of the world. As of August 2007 a total of 189 countries are known to have signed the NPT. 4 countries (including India and Pakistan, both of which are definite nuclear powers) however have stayed away from the NPT right from its inception. North Korea, which had once been party to the treaty, recently violated it and later decided to pull out of it altogether.

The NPT was formally proposed by Ireland. Finland was the first country to officially sign it. In 1995 all those who had signed the treaty met in New York City and decided on offering it to one and all without imposing any sort of conditions.

The text of the treaty consists of a preamble along with eleven separate articles. The treaty is sometimes also said to be composed of 3 ‘pillars’, namely “the right to peacefully use nuclear technology, non-proliferation and disarmament”. (NPT, 1)

Non-Proliferation (first pillar) The NPT recognizes 5 of its ‘members’ as states with nuclear weapons. These 5 states include The United States of America (who signed the treaty in 1968), the United Kingdom (also signed in 1968), Soviet Union (whose rights and duties were later taken over by Russia) (1968), People’s Republic of China (1992) and France (1992). When the treaty was ratified at the very beginning in 1970, only U.K, U.S.A and Soviet Union (which later became Russia) possessed nuclear weapons officially.

As signatories of the NPT these 5 nuclear weapon states (NPW) consent to not transferring “nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices” and also to “not in any way assist, encourage or induce” other non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS) to obtain nuclear weapons (,

1). Similarly all NNWS signatories consent to not “acquire”, “receive” or “manufacture” any form of nuclear armaments or “seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons” (, 1). Additionally, all NNWS signatories also accede to receive the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards to confirm that nuclear energy in the country is only being utilized for peaceful uses and not for manufacturing nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.

The abovementioned NWS signatories have unanimously decided to not use their nuclear weapons on any of the NNWS signatories unless they themselves face a nuclear attack or even a usual attack carried on in partnership with a NWS. Despite being agreed upon by the signatories of the treaty however neither of these undertakings have yet been officially included in the treaty.

As a result, as expected, the particulars of the undertakings are a work in progress and tend to be different under different conditions. Hence U.S., which is a NWS and apparently pledged to not putting its nuclear weapons to use against NNWS’, has openly targeted its nuclear warheads towards North Korea (which until very recently was a NNWS) for a period of 32 years stretching from 1959 to 1991 (USA of course signed the treaty in 1968).

Former Secretary of State for Defence U.K., Geoff Hoon had also blatantly hinted at the possible use of U.K’s nuclear weapon in reply to any form of ‘non-conventional attack’ by what he termed ‘rogue states’. Later in 2006 French President Jacques Chirac too had specifically pointed out that France would be forced to retaliate with a small-scale nuclear attack on the ‘rogue state’ in case it had to encounter an episode of the rampant ‘state-sponsored terrorism’.

Disarmament (Second Pillar) The preamble to the NPT affirms the aspiration of all those party to the treaty to help reduce the growing tension amongst the various nations of the world. It further expresses the hope to help stop all countries from manufacturing or acquiring nuclear weapons once and for all by improving international relations and increasing international trust. It also touches upon the issue of absolute disarmament by means of which all nuclear weapons as well as their delivery vehicles maybe liquidated from all national weapon stores the NWS’.

Article VI further develops on this topic and urges all NWS’ as well as NNWS’ "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control” (,1). Despite such a request however the NPT remains quite ambiguous regarding the idea of disarmament. Hence, none of the signatories of the NPT consider its appeal for total disarmament anything more than an idealistic guideline. Most consider Article VI to merely enforce a ‘vague obligation’ to move towards complete nuclear disarmament on the states party to the treaty.

However some NNWS’ consider Article VI to be a particularly specific and official obligation levied on the NWS’, which requires them to disarm themselves once they sign the NPT. The failure to do so on the part of all the NWS’ has remained a serious contention with these states. (Lock, 238)

Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy (Third Pillar) Most of the NWS’ and other states that are presently using nuclear power for meeting their energy needs are reluctant to give up the nuclear fuel they possess completely. The NPT’s Third Pillar (under Article VI) is an attempt at accommodating the use of nuclear energy by these states, albeit with restrictions regarding the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

A number of states interpret the 6th Article of the NPT as permission to enrich uranium for fuel purposes. However, this particular pillar of the abovementioned article is shrouded in controversies since there seems to be no serious legal way of differentiating between a certain states ability to enrich uranium for meeting its energy needs and its ability to enrich uranium to a degree that it may be used for manufacturing nuclear weapons.


The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) is dedicated to encouraging the use of nuclear power for peaceful reasons AND the prevention of the use of the same for military purposes. Established in the late 50’s this autonomous organization was envisaged by former U.S President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. Both the IAEA and Mohamed ElBaradei, its Director General, were honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize (2005) for their tremendous contribution to the development and the control of atomic energy.

The press often refers to the IAEA by the cheeky nickname “UN’s Nuclear watchdog”.

The Headquarter of the organization is located in Vienna, Austria. However it has a number of offices scattered all over the world. These include 2 “Regional Safeguards Office” in Tokyo (Japan) and Toronto (Canada) and 2 ‘liaison offices’ in Geneva (Switzerland) and New York (USA). Apart from these it also has laboratories in Trieste (Italy), Monaco, Austria, Vienna and Seibersdorf.

The IAEA functions like an intergovernmental set-up and is solely dedicated to persuading and helping nation states all over the world to use nuclear technology for non-violent purposes. The IAEA offers a range of programs. Most of these are committed to the promotion and support of the development of non-violent nuclear applications. Many others provide protection against possible abuse of nuclear technology and facilitate the use of various security measures. The extensive nuclear safety methods for which IAEA is renowned today was an after effect of the devastating Chernobyl disaster (1986).

The IAEA’s operations are primarily steered by the requirements and interests of the different member states, the motto personified by the IAEA Statute and the strategic plan the organization attempts to follow. The IAEA works in three different areas these are (a) Science and technology (b) Safeguards and Verification and (c) Safety and Security.

Although the IAEA is officially not under the rule of any particular UN organization it is still required to report to 2 specific UN bodies, namely the Security Council and the General Assembly. The IAEA itself has 3 separate bodies namely The Secretariat, The Board of Governors and The General Conference.

The IAEA was established to ensure “safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear sciences and technology”, and this in short remains its mission statement (Roco, 1). The IAEA chases this goal by means of three primary operations, (a) close scrutiny and assessment of present nuclear amenities to make sure that the use they are being put to is completely peaceful (b) provision of information regarding and standards of nuclear amenities, to help understand the stability of the present facilities (c) in the form of a centre for the sciences, looking for the non-violent use of nuclear power.


For USA the problem concerning Iran really comes down to two basic points

1)                Iran must not be allowed to possess nuclear armaments and

2)                Iran must not be permitted to acquire technology allowing it to enrich uranium or manufacture plutonium.

And it is really in these two points that one might hope to find a solution to the present crisis. Most countries concerned about the current tension surrounding Iran are of the opinion that Iran’s rejection of the nuclear power project would effectively ease the situation to a great degree. If Iran did give up its fuel-cycle abilities (which includes heavy water production, uranium conversion, reprocessing as well as uranium enrichment) and at the same time abandon all fuel-cycle facilities, whether they be already functional or under construction, then nuclear supplier countries (such as Russia, USA and other European countries) would certainly compensate Iran by providing it with fresh reactor fuel and facilities for retrieving and storing spent fuel, i.e. as long as Iran kept up with IAEA’s Additional Protocol.

Such a solution has earned the approval of the EU-3 but of course the Bush administration would clearly favour a solution that stalls all sort of nuclear activities in Iran altogether. USA is particularly adamant about putting a complete stop to the building of any sort of nuclear reactors in Iran. It has long wanted to bring an end to the Russian construction of the Bushehr reactor. But of course under the circumstances if indeed Iran were to accept the abovementioned solution and forsake its fuel-cycle abilities once and for all then the USA would certainly go along with the arrangement.

Unfortunately for USA however it isn’t just its opinion that seems to be of supreme importance in this case. Tehran would clearly explode before bending down before such a settlement and no one more than USA is completely aware of that. In recent years the nuclear issue has become reasonably politically flavoured in Iran and many have cashed in on it to convince Iranians of the villain-like image of USA that the Islamic Republic regime has been trying to drill into public minds right from its inception. A number of hard-liners have been depicting the USA as well as the concerned European countries as foreign powers eager to keep Iran from profiting from the advancement of modern technology, and this time they are convincing more people than in the past.

One cannot possibly deny the Iranian leaders steadfast logic. They believe (and with good reason too) that possessing their personal fuel-cycle is extremely important in order to become truly independent of other countries. Having to turn to others for nuclear help continuously would obviously put Iran on a leash and make her susceptible to nuclear fuel supply cut offs provoked by purely political reasons.

Iran of course has been taught the need for self-reliance the hard way. In the 1950’s when the then Prime Minister of Iran Mohammed Mossadeq demanded to see the financial records of the Anglo-Iranian Oil company (started by the British in early 1900’s and meant to be a joint venture whose profits would be shared between Iran and the British on a 15% 85% basis) he was snubbed unceremoniously. A concerned Mossadeq then tried to nationalize the company in order to ensure that its heavy profits weren’t unduly monopolized by the British.

He was supported in this mission, unanimously, by the then active Iranian parliament. However, unfortunately for him such a sudden demand for self-reliance did not go down too well with the British who immediately tweaked a few political cogs and wheels to ensure that the Prime Minister was removed and the more affable, West relying Shah was re-instated in his former position.

Its need for self-sufficiency was drilled further home during the famous Iraq-Iran war. Freshly torn from its association with the USA Iran finally understood how far it lagged behind in its capacity to defend itself. The same war also gave it a hint of the taste of political mind games when USA (a former Iranian ally) decided to support Iraq during the campaign. (Deb, 44-45)

It is therefore not odd to discover that the Iranian leaders have remained rock stubborn during this entire crisis. Their contention is basic and perhaps has less to do with nuclear weapons and more with the pure independence to decide what they desire for their own country.

In a recent article Joseph Cirincione (director for Non-proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) has famously declared that “some senior officials have already made up their minds: they want to hit Iran”. However if such an attack does translate into reality, Cirincione warns, no one is likely to regret it more than USA itself.

“A military strike would be disastrous for the United States,” (Cirincione, 1) he asserts, reminding us that such a move would clinch matters in favour of a regime that is still quite unpopular in Iran. Further “it (an attack on Iran) would inflame Anti-American anger around the Muslim world and jeopardize the already fragile US position in Iraq” (Froomkin, 1), all quite definitely undesirable developments especially in post 9/11 scenario.

A military strike on Iran, many like Cirincione believe, would not only not halt but rather hasten Iran’s nuclear program. Under such desperate circumstances even those who today oppose the concept of nuclear armament would finally be persuaded into believing that the only way to deter the US is a nuclear bomb. If such a belief becomes a widespread phenomenon Iran could accelerate its program (if it already exists) or adopt one (this time with public support) quickly enough to manufacture nuclear arsenals in as little time as a few years.

If, as most war analysts believe, Iran does not posses any nuclear armament at present then a military attack on Iran will at least worsen USA’s position in the global political scene, if of course it doesn’t lead to a 3rd World War. USA’s worsening position will push it to one end of the international political scene such that when the World War 3 does take place (and as most believe, it will, in fact many are of the opinion that we are already passing through the ‘initial stages’ of such a war) it will perhaps be fighting it with the rest of the world, all by itself.

And, of co